Friday, May 20, 2016

An Inclusive Cuba Would Always Be Stronger

An Inclusive Cuba Would Always Be Stronger
May 19, 2016
By Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES – It is no secret that Washington is slowly moving away
from its former partners of dissent and betting on the self-employed,
cooperatives and Cuban entrepreneurs, born under the reforms led by
President Raul Castro.

The advantages of these over traditional dissenters are huge; they are
integrated into society, their compatriots consider them successful
people and they have their own financial resources, so the government
doesn't have to maintain them and the water in which they swim is the
market economy.

They even have contradictions with the prevailing social model on the
island, which ties their hands with an inefficient bureaucracy, by
officials always slow to make decisions, some corrupt and many fearful
of losing their position.

Workers and self-employed entrepreneurs are frowned upon by the more
political "orthodox", those who still believe that the purity of
socialism is measured by the amount of the means of production in the
hands of the state. It's the hangover from drinking so many Soviets manuals.

Those who go to the sources of socialism can see that Karl Marx merely
proposed nationalizing only the "core means of production" and Lenin put
it into practice promoting private initiative in the New Economic Policy

And if we look at the roots of Cuba, José Martí would be an enemy of the
concentration of capital in few hands because "exclusive wealth is
unfair." He also noted that "a nation that is rich has many small owners".

The worst of the orthodox view is that they use the media to fill the
citizenry with their prejudices, fears and suspicions, some of them
confirmed by the new US strategy, but many others are just to scare people.

The future will depend on who this emerging sector identifies with. In
this terrain their economic interests will be first, but they will also
be influenced by more subjective aspects such as nationalism, social
conscience or political ideas.

If the authorities and economists have determined that more than one
million state workers must move to the private sector, they should act
consistently, making them feel that their economic interests are
inextricably linked to those of the nation.

It's not about preparing tangled speeches; it would be suffice to
explain the closure to foreign investment in some branches of food
service and hostels, benefitting locals by limiting the competition from
large conglomerates.

The entrance to Cuba of fast food chains or international restaurants,
for example, would put the Cuban businesses at a very unequal
confrontation, both in production costs and by the experience and
accumulated capital.

SMEs, cooperatives and the self-employed, should be the first interested
in maintaining some niches in the economy in the hands of Cubans because
that way they defend their own interests while enhancing the nation.

However, there are also subjective aspects that influence. It has to do
with the appreciation or contempt with which they are treated. In the
Cuban press and in some political speeches remain too many prejudices
against this private sector, a legitimate child of the Cuban Revolution.

Corruption cases are always mentioned much more concerning private
businesses than in state enterprises, despite the fact that the economic
crimes in the state sector are far more, due to it being much larger and
also by the huge lack of controls.

It takes forever for a cooperative to be approved and the self-employed
have no wholesale markets to purchase supplies. They are also forbidden
from importing. Likewise, only 200 forms of self-employment are allowed,
while the inspectors bleed them dry demanding money under the table.

The economic role of the autonomous may seem small compared to the state
but the fact is that the reforms would be impossible without them. No
government can run efficiently if it has to address both nickel mines
and the street sale of fritters.

The private sector reduces the number of state employees; covers the
lodging deficit for tourists outside the hotels; solves everyday
problems of the population, and contributes to the national coffers with
taxes while allowing the government to address the crucial sectors.

Private enterprise is not an enemy of the nation or even "a necessary
evil." Sometimes it even has a social profile in its project, such as
the case of Papito the barber or the Cuban Art Factory, where culture
and sustainability merge.

As in any other economic and social sectors there will be corrupt or
unprincipled people but President Raul Castro himself said most are
"patriots". So why so much prejudice, mistrust and suspicion against them?

While in Cuba the bureaucracy and orthodoxy make life impossible for
them, they receive praise from the US, from where they receive offers
for loans, training courses and open doors to export and import. Which
of the two policies will be the most intelligent and provide the best

Source: An Inclusive Cuba Would Always Be Stronger - Havana -

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